- Austerity at Concordia
The following document details the consequences austerity has had here at Concordia. From larger class room sizes, less course option and more loss of staff, austerity is negativity affecting the quality of our educations.
- Alternatives to Austerity
The following document details a series of fiscal alternatives the government can implement in order to raise revenues and decrease spending, all while avoiding drastic cuts to the public sector and increasing budget by 10 billion annually. We have the means to do things differently, what we need is political will.
Death By a Thousands Cuts
Job cuts, broken promises on pension plans, and targeted fees on the poor. These are the tactics of Premier Philippe Couillard’s campaign of austerity in pursuit of the mythical ‘zero deficit’ budget. Continuing the trend of previous governments the Liberal Party’s attempt to balance the economy rests on chipping away at key public institutions. The Liberal government demands that we tighten our belts and accept sweeping cuts to essential services such as daycare and education to the tune of $3.2 billion dollars in 2014-15 budget alone.
This campaign is neither new nor unique to Quebec and reflects a global ideological project to redistribute wealth. The government’s claims that there are no ‘sacred cows’ and that Quebec must accept responsibility for its future, but not all are targeted by austerity equally. Between 1981 and 2009 Quebec spent $115.5 billion dollars on subsidies to corporations far more than any province. Announcements by the Couillard government regarding gambles such as the Plan Nord which would see $2.7 billion dollars in public funds spent to attract investment in natural resource extraction show that austerity measures do not apply to corporate welfare. Austerity is political extremism, not an inevitability nor the only option. The consequences both in present and for future generations will be dire. Austerity is a choice, and we choose to refuse!
Capitalism is Bad for Your Health
A key service the government is after is Quebec’s extensive healthcare system. Comprising nearly 40% of the provincial budget healthcare is one of the most essential services targeted by the government. In the budget for 2014-15 Healthcare and Social Services were cut by $225 million dollars with Quebec’s Health Minister Gaétan Barrette insisting that a total of $600 million dollars can be reduced from these essential services by cutting what he calls ‘administrative positions’.
The Liberal government seeks to revolutionize essential services based on defunding and partial privatization. The consequences are already horrendous as mismanagement of the healthcare system has led to long wait times and lack of access. Statistics Canada linked on average 40,000 deaths in Canada each year from preventable conditions as a result of income inequality. As the gap between rich and poor continues to grow, so too will the human cost.
They Steal we Pay
Are we even surprised when we hear of municipal contracts being rigged, politicians being bribed, and money earmarked for public projects simply disappearing? Corruption in Quebec through bid rigging and bribery costs an estimated $600 million dollars annually. Tax avoidance and evasion in the province make an estimated $740 million dollars in lost revenue. These two measures alone could bring in more than a billion dollars in provincial revenues provided the political will exists.
Public cynicism towards the government is not a surprise when we see revelations from Quebec’s anti-corruption police squad detailing twenty four charges of fraud spread among five key figures of one of Canada’s largest public work projects in history: the MUHC in the Southwest of Montreal. Also known as the Super Hospital, this billion dollar contract to construct a medical complex was awarded to construction company SNC Lavalin despite another firm entering a bid $60 million dollars lower amid allegations the public official who championed the project was paid millions of dollars by SNC.
Part of a broader investigation known as the Charbonneau Commission, the MUHC corruption is one piece of a complex system of bid rigging where competing construction firms would make large donations to political parties in Montreal and Quebec in exchange for public contracts. The connection to austerity is that costs of providing services and building infrastructure is artificially inflated and drains public coffers. We do not have to accept being robbed and then be asked to pay the difference; corruption is not an inevitability but has become business as usual.
Money doesn’t Grow on Trees
Some see the solution to Quebec’s deficit by turning the province into a petrostate that funds its services through the sale of energy and natural resources. Despite being ready to spend more than a billion dollars on infrastructure through the Plan Nord project the government seems to shy away from actually collecting money from these projects. Between 2006-2011 55% of mining companies paid no royalties to Quebec and at the same time contaminated mining sites cost the province $1.9 billion dollars. Large scale industrial projects have dire environmental and social consequences evident by a long list of tragedies that have beset the province. Lac Mégantic saw the consequences of an industry that puts more thought into profit than into protection when several train cars carrying oil exploded in the city killing 47. Companies use this crisis to justify the expansion of pipelines to transport oil across the country as a ‘safer solution’; speaking volumes to their arrogant refusal to develop alternative fuels.
The Quebec segment of Transcanada's proposed Energy East pipeline would cross 600 waterways, including a 700 km stretch alongside the St-Lawrence river that could expose a quarter of the world’s drinkable water to contamination in the event of a spill. Identified as a magic bullet solution to the economic woes of Quebec, hydrocarbon development will only serve to enrich the wealthy owners of these projects while exposing the public to vast amounts of physical and financial risk.
Block the Pipelines